A Brief History of the Rolla Building

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Missouri School of Mines : University of Missouri - Rolla : Missouri S&T

The Rolla Building was built in 1871 by the City of Rolla as a high school. The city voted $35,000 in bonds for the project. Half of the building was leased by the Board of Curators for use by the Missouri School of Mines (MSM) in 1871. Classes began in November of that year. The dedication of MSM was held in the east half of the second floor of the Rolla Building in the afternoon of November 23, 1871. Then, this part of the building was the "auditorium", which had a stage; it now includes the Mathematics and Statistics Department's library, chair's office, part of the main office, and other faculty offices. The stage is long gone. The entire Rolla Building was sold to MSM in January 1875 for $25,000.

In 1896-97 the MSM Library* was on the second floor, southwest room, of the Rolla Building. It was in existence early during the Williams administration (i.e., soon after the opening of the school, since Williams was the first Director), and had now grown to a collection of 3500 volumes. Some thirty-five standard scientific, literary, and engineering magazines were on the subscription list, a number of which, in chemistry and mathematics, were in French and German. This area is now the location of the Math/Stat Dept. office. It would be nice to have some of the old shelving*. Below the library, in the SW part of the first floor, was a drafting room*, now the offices of Professor Clark (101), Professor Grow (103) and graduate teaching assistants (102). In 1897 Director (now called Chancellor) Ladd's office was in the Rolla Building, on the first floor just north of the main east stairway; now room 108, Professor Le's office. Director Ladd had a much better view* in 1897 than Professor Le has 100 years later (though now that the old University Center West has been torn down, Prof. Le's view is much better).

Prior to 1903 the Physics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory* was on the entire third floor of the Rolla Building, and the Department of Civil Engineering had headquarters in the Rolla Building. The CE office was in a small room on the first floor, northwest corner; now room 115, Professor Dorff's office (in 1997; later, Professor Bekker's office and now (2014) Professor He's office). The department had a lecture room and laboratory room in the east half of the second floor. The Library was still in the SW corner of the second floor.

In the fall of 1904 most of the departments formerly in the Rolla Building had been moved to Norwood or Mechanical Hall (later the ME Annex, now gone and replaced by the new Toomey Hall). The State Bureau of Geology and Mines was moved into the east half of the Rolla Building. The Library remained on the second floor, SW corner, for another year, and other rooms on the west side were still used for recitation rooms by departments of English, Modern Languages, and Mathematics. In 1905 the Library was transferred to Norwood Hall. Some few rooms in the Rolla building continued to be used for recitations, but the building was gradually evacuated by MSM and used only by the State Geological Survey. Occupants from 1904 to 1947 included: Missouri State Geological Survey , State Bureau of Geology, Water Resources Branch of USGS, State Geologist, and Topographic Unit of USGS.

The Rolla Building was extensively remodeled in 1947 to house classrooms and the Department of Humanities and Social Studies. This use continued until the early 1970s when the present Humanities-Social Sciences Building was built.

Through 1997, no classes had been held in the Rolla Building since the late 60s or early 70s. During that time, the building housed various administrative and support offices, and minor remodeling was done once or twice, including new windows. The graduate teaching assistants in the Mathematics and Statistics Department were among the recent occupants in the 90s.

In the summer of 1995, Chancellor Park approached the Mathematics and Statistics Department about moving into a completely renovated Rolla Building. Nearly $2,000,000 had been appropriated for the renovation, and the general plans called for the interior to be completely demolished (except for load-bearing walls) and then rebuilt. The first floor was to be raised almost two feet to create headroom in the basement and thus make the basement usable. After spirited discussion, the department agreed, reserving the right to cancel the move if subsequent discussions with the architect indicated that the renovation would not be satisfactory. The department's principal concern was that the renovated building would have enough space for both the department faculty and TAs. The chancellor accepted our decision on this basis, and assured us that the Department of Mathematics and Statistics would be the sole occupant of the Rolla Building after the renovation was complete.

Peckham and Wright Architects, of Columbia, were selected as architects, and began work in the fall of 1995. After many meetings with the department committee**, in which the architects were impressed with the attention to detail exhibited by the committee and the committee was impressed with the architects' willingness to listen to our ideas, a suitable design was created. In late spring of 1996 the contract was awarded to Hogan Construction Company of Rolla, and work began in the summer of 1996. In August of 1997, the Mathematics and Statistics Department moved in. A few construction details remained, and some new furnishings were due to be purchased, but these things were finished in the next few months. Moe Hogan, the contractor, and Ron Boggs, UMR's construction project manager, did a great job of handling unforeseen problems, keeping the work on schedule, and responding courteously to many questions from the department committee. In addition to larger and nicer offices with windows, an important benefit of the move is that for the first time since the creation of our graduate program, the faculty and graduate students are housed in the same building.

The only parts of the interior that were not demolished are the load-bearing wall which runs N-S in the center of the building and the floors on the second and third levels. The east entrance remains as it was, but the west entrance was completely redone to provide ADA compliance. The high ceilings were retained, and the trim is reminiscent of the original decor*.

Here is a link to pictures, both old and new, of the Rolla Building.

Leon Hall, 1997, revised 2009, 2014


Most pre-1946 information is from C.V. Mann's The History of The Missouri School of Mines.

* Look for a photograph of this when you look at the old pictures.

**Professors Clark, Hall, Ingram, Patel, Roe, and Samaranayake